Tackle steep Callow Hill for a closer look at a tower visible for miles around.
Distance 6.4 miles (10.4km)
Minimum time 2hrs 30min
Ascent/gradient 817ft (249m)
Level of difficulty Medium
Paths Mostly good, not always clear between Quinny Brook and Halford, muddy in places, 18 stiles
Landscape Pasture and woodland on scarp slope of Wenlock Edge
Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 217 The Long Mynd & Wenlock Edge
Start/finish SO 433828
Dog friendliness Off lead in woodland, under close control in sheep pasture
Parking Car park off B4368 Corvedale Road, Craven Arms
Public toilets None on route
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1 Walk down Corvedale Road, cross the River Onny and turn left towards Halford. Reaching the hamlet, turn right towards Dinchope. Pass a farm, then take a footpath on the left. It climbs to the far corner of a field, then along the left-hand edge of another.
2 When the hedge turns a corner, continue across the field to a stile by a telegraph pole, then up the next field to a concealed stile, near the top left corner. Turn left along a lane and ignore all turnings, following signs for Lower Dinchope and Westhope. Pass through Lower Dinchope to a junction.
3 Take a path almost opposite, where a sign indicates that you're joining the Hills and Dales Hike, (which begins at Secret Hills). Just follow the frequent waymarkers, which guide you across fields and into woodland, before sending you zig-zagging up graded and stepped paths to the top of Callow Hill.
4 Turn left at the top, skirting round Flounder's Folly, then returning to the edge until you are forced to descend sharp left into conifers. The path plunges steeply down to a clearing. Join a track which continues more gently, soon passing a barrier to meet the Dinchope-Westhope road.
5 Turn right, then immediately left on a track, where the road bends sharply right. Go left again at the turning for Moorwood farm.
6 Enter Strefford Wood and descend left on a bridleway. At the bottom of the wood the Hills and Dales Hike goes to the left. Stay with the bridleway, which leaves Strefford Wood and descends to a lane. Turn left, then right, crossing Quinny Brook into Strefford.
7 Turn first left on a no through road, which becomes a footpath running through fields to a footbridge over Quinny Brook. Cross the bridge and proceed to another. Cross this too and keep going to a stile just beyond three large oaks. Again, keep straight on, past Berrymill Cottages and through a copse into a field.
8 Walk the length of the field to a stile at the far side, close to the top left corner. Go through a wood, then across fields towards Halford. Watch for a concealed stile as you reach the village. Go along a track to a junction, then turn right on another track which crosses the River Onny. A permissive path on the left runs into Craven Arms.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, follies were the height of fashion. The focal point of this walk is Flounder's Folly, a stone tower which stands on top of Callow Hill, the highest point of Wenlock Edge. Like so many follies, it has an entertaining tale behind it, which may or may not be true. The story goes that a wealthy merchant called Benjamin Flounder ordered the tower to be built in 1838 so he could admire the view across Corve Dale to his fine house at Ludlow. But he got a nasty surprise when he first climbed to the top of the newly completed tower. His mansion was not to be seen - there was a hill in the way. 'Take it down' he roared, and it's unclear if he meant the hill or the tower. Both were spared, however, when a watery gleam on the horizon was pointed out to him. Benjamin (who must have been extraordinarily stupid) was placated by the suggestion that it was the Mersey, and that he would be able to watch his ships leaving Liverpool. The initials BF are carved into the stonework and, as more than one person has observed, perhaps that says it all.
But why did he have the tower built? It may have been for the view, or perhaps Benjamin was just a fashion victim. He might even have had more altruistic motives. Several British follies have been built purely because a generous landowner wished to provide work at a time of high unemployment - and 1838 would fit the bill in that respect.
The first follies appeared in the 16th century, but it wasn't until the 18th century that the craze took off, partly reflecting a new enthusiasm for all things classical. Wealthy young men were educated in the classics, then sent off on the Grand Tour. They came back full of the glory that was Greece and Rome and set about building temples on their country estates. This developed into a romantic search for the ideal landscape and people would enhance, as they thought, the view from their country seats with all manner of purpose-built towers and castles, preferably ruined. At least there is nothing pretentious about Flounder's Folly. A tall plain tower built from local stone, it looks well enough from a distance, but is dilapidated at close quarters. It has been neglected in recent years and efforts are being made to raise money for its restoration.
In the 1960s and 1970s, our buzzard population plummeted because of pesticide poisoning. Since the banning of the worst poisons, it has staged a successful comeback. For years it was confined to Scotland, Wales and the West Country, but is now moving steadily eastwards across England, and is very common in Shropshire, especially round Craven Arms.
Secret Hills is part of an initiative to attract more visitors to Craven Arms. There are interactive displays (including a simulated balloon flight) inside a grass-roofed building, a shop, café and riverside meadows to explore. It's the starting point for several waymarked walks, including the Hills and Dales Hike, which overlaps with this walk.